Rawstory had the link on their site, here
If journalists vote, are they saddled with professional bias? A FOX News panel discussed the topic and came up with some strange analogies.
I immediately clicked on this link to get into this story, as I am very personally opinionated on this topic. It went on:
A column on the Politico written by journalist Mike Allen prompted the debate. “I’m part of a minority school of thought among journalists that we owe it to the people we cover, and to our readers, to remain agnostic about elections, even in private,” he wrote. “I figure if the news media serves as an imperfect umpire, neither team wants us taking a few swings.”
Republican strategist Christine O’Donnell differed wildly in her interpretation of the journalist’s civic role. “Remember the first free elections in Afghanistan? The Taliban actually threatened death. They said that any woman who voted would have their fingers chopped off,” she said. “Yet you saw news reports of women lined up around the polling places — even if it meant that the terrorists were going to later chop off their fingers — because they know what it means to vote in a free election.”
“And then to hear journalists say, ‘I cannot be objective if I vote,’ then you should not be a journalist,” she added.
FOX News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. was almost as adamant as O’Donnell. “I think it’s ridiculous,” he exclaimed. “In fact it bothers me because it goes with the moral superiority that so-called journalists have, that their duty — which is not codified, not written in any law, or not understood by most people — is a higher responsibility than exercising the vote.”
“I’m disturbed by it,” he continued. “I think they should get real and act like real Americans.”
I was stunned. While the last line from the FOX host was their typical brand of cookie-cutter bravado, I agreed with his main point.
Impartial Journalists? Please.
No one, no one, is truly impartial. Everyone has opinions. Unless, of course, you know nothing about the topic at hand, then, and only then, you can be impartial, truly an objective observer. If you completely avoid learning about something, avoid any analysis of what you hear or see, and simply write what is told to you and print it as such, then, I guess, that would be impartial, it would be objective. But it wouldn’t be Journalism.
That’s called Stenography.
I get so bent about this because it isn’t a new concept to understand. Take my favorite source for Journalism: Hunter S. Thompson. His take?
So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here — not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.
And Hunter from an interview here
MH: How will history remember Bill Clinton?
HST: I don’t know about history. I don’t get any satisfaction out of the old traditional journalist’s view — “I just covered the story. I just gave it a balanced view.” Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can’t be objective about Nixon. How can you be objective about Clinton?
MH: Objective journalism is why politics have been corrupt for so long?
HST: If you consider the great journalists in history, you don’t see too many objective journalists on that list. H. L. Mencken was not objective. Mike Royko, who just died. I. F. Stone was not objective. Mark Twain was not objective. I don’t quite understand this worship of objectivity in journalism. Now, just flat-out lying is different from being subjective.
Hunter’s last line really makes the sticking point on the whole topic.
We become frustrated with the coverage we see on organizations like FOX, because they have have opinions, don’t pretend to be objective, and then go and use that as an excuse to flat out lie and make shit up.
Their justification is that they claim they are balancing out the impact of the “Liberal Media”. (Why lies balance out uncomfortable facts, I still don’t know)
The Mainstream Media in turn, has tried to counter this perception of Liberal Bias with the inclusion of a counterpoint of every argument in every story. We have seen this grow more and more ludicrous for years, where we now have a voluntary “Fairness Doctrine” self-imposed by the leading “journalists” where no fact or opinion can get reported without an opposing view treated equally. (shout out to Joe Klein!)
I remain shocked that we haven’t gotten to the point of reporting stories about child-rapists, where we cut over to someone who says “Well, you know, we have our next guest who thinks that child-rape isn’t so bad…”
But I digress…
Peter Johnson Jr. was right. Journalists should vote, they should have opinions, and be honest about them. But he and I split there. It isn’t about being patriotic, or being a “Real American”.
If your job is to report the facts, you have to have learn about the facts. You have to research. You have to understand what is true and what is not, and you need to report that. Journalists need to know themselves as well, and be open about their bias. Honest, open bias can be understood by the reader, and doesn’t invalidate the writing, when is is coupled with honest, verifiable facts.
Those facts are what we need, not fake balance, and not propaganda either.
At least that is MY opinion. Honestly.